Posted on March 13th, 2012
Categories: News


Africa just has its way with people, something that can’t be explained unless experienced, the ‘TIA’-feeling (This Is Africa) it has been described as. And it’s the lure of these wild and wonderful places that drew a bunch of international participants to EcoTraining’s 28 day field guide course (10 February – 8 March) in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in north east Kenya.

For a second time Lewa played host to a course of this nature, after the very successful first visit last year in August. Mark Gunn was the head instructor again and was assisted by Sam Stogdale from EcoTraining’s Kenyan operations. There were a few other familiar faces around as well this year – ‘Camp manager’ Mike and his team including Richard (who never sat down, and if he did, everybody wanted to know what was wrong!) as well as Ruby, the game guard from the Kenyan Wildlife Services, who accompanied the group on their walks.

A better camp and classroom setting one could hardly asked for – surrounded by fever trees on the edge of the swamp area, impalas and Grevy’s zebras made their way to greener pastures in the early morning, buffalo and rhino sauntered past in the late afternoon, and as the sun was setting, the unmistakable call of a male lion. Priceless!

The diverse bunch of students – from Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, as well as two guides from the local community around Lewa – got their adventure of to a fantastic start when they had six elephant encounters, one rhino encounter (with three rhinos), and one lion encounter, all on their first afternoon game walk!

The sightings continued thick and fast – two rhino encounters, also saw two sets of elephants and buffalo in the distance; three elephant sightings with buffalo and rhinos in the distance and good birds along the swamp; two buffalo encounters with elephants in the distance;  29 reticulated giraffe together;  Abyssinian scimitar bill. And so the list just grew and grew. The end tally – more than 20 mammal species and too many birds to count.

In between these wonderful sightings, some time of course had to be made for the classroom and the theoretical component of the course. Under the experienced tutelage of Mark the group covered subjects liked geology and soils, mammals, reptiles, birds, animal behaviour, tracks and tracking and creating a guided experience. At night time the laser pointer was directed skywards and the sky became the lecture hall with astronomy coming alive.

Of course for the grey matter to continue functioning at the best levels, it had to be fed with fuel from a different kind. Scrumptious meal after scrumptious meal was served by Paul and Richard from their rudimentary kitchen. Fresh fruit and vegetables, warm bread and once even a chocolate cake with creamy icing appeared on the table during meal times.

A highlight was the excursion and sleep out in the NgareNdare Forest Trust, about 20 km southwest of the camp site. The diverse plant and animal life in the forest was a welcoming change from the wide open plains of Lewa. The 500 metre suspension canopy walkway may not have been to the liking of those with a fear of heights, but the view from above was something to behold.

Twenty eight days filled with exciting encounters, fascinating facts and marvellous meals came to an end all too quickly. The last words then should belong to the participants.

George, from the United Kingdom, recalled his first impression upon arrival at camp: “Amazing and magnificent! I was made to feel so very welcome. My tent was spotless, until I unpacked of course. I had the time of my life!”

Or as Claudia, an attendee from Germany said on her departure: “I have learned a lot, so much more than expected. It was one of the best times I’ve ever had. Everybody was extremely friendly, the wonderful food, it could not have been better. I have to say 10 out of 10!”

So, if you feel the lure of the African continent, if you want to come and explore and return home with vivid memories to last a life time, get in touch with EcoTraining. Visit or send an email to [email protected] for more information.